LIMA, March 18, 2008 (—The National Congress of Peru has approved a new system of “rapid divorce” that critics say will undermine Peruvian families.

  The new law, if approved in a second vote this week, will allow couples to process their divorce simply by filling out the proper forms at city hall or the office of a notary public.

  According to local news reports, the divorce application can be submitted any time after two years of marriage, and must be processed by the government within two years of submission.

  Advocates of the bill say that the system is necessary because many couples can’t afford to pay an attorney to file for divorce within the court system. 

“I share the idea of strengthening the family, but in the face of the existence of couples that haven’t resolved their civil real estate for 15 or 20 years because of lack of money to hire a lawyer, and create parallel families, a regulation is necessary that allows couples to divorce without recourse to attorneys,” said Rosario Sasieta, the bill’s main promoter in the Congress, according to the French Press Agency (AFP).

  Representative Fabiola Morales disagrees. “I want to say that this topic has to do with conscience, in such a way that here a partisan vote will not be sufficient.  Furthermore, we are in an age in which everyone wants to divorce.  It seems like the only people who want to marry are homosexuals and lesbians,” she told 24 Horas Libre, a Peruvian television network.

  The nation’s Catholic bishops are also strongly denouncing the bill.

  According to Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, the measure is a “bureaucratic solution, which is going to create worse problems, because it is an incentive for more divorces, more matrimonial ruptures, more suffering and more mistreatment of society.”

“The only thing this kind of measure does is favor separation.  It doesn’t seek to strengthen the family unit, but to facilitate its disintegration,” said Luis Bambarén Gastelumendi, Bishop Emeritus of Chimbote.

  Archbishop José Antonio Eguren Anselmi of Piura, in his homily last Sunday, regretted the fact that the government “instead of promoting the consolidation of marriages, as the Constitution requires in Article 4”, is instead “opting for the dissolution of the same, converting into a mere administrative procedure an issue that has a very important social relevance because marriages constitute the environment for integral education of the future citizens of our country.”

  He added that “today our society is passing through a serious crisis of values and principles of both a moral and institutional nature.  It has weakened the social fabric and has created criminal and immoral conduct that damages the formation of our children and young people.”